OTTAWA, Sept. 6, 2011 /CNW/ - A new Road Safety Monitor (RSM) poll by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) shows that
a majority of Canadians continue to mainly associate distracted driving
with cell phone use while continuing to engage in other distracting
behaviours. The public opinion poll conducted in September 2010
investigated Canadians' driving behaviours and perceptions of
When Canadians were asked what they associate with distracted driving,
72.2% of respondents first thought of cell phones. The other top five
distractions mentioned include eating and drinking (4%), passengers
(3.4%), other drivers on the road (2.9%), and changing the radio
station or CDs (2.8%). For researchers this suggests that Canadians may
not fully appreciate the complete spectrum of behaviours that are
distracting to a driver.
"Distraction is a diversion of the driver's attention from the driving
task," explains Robyn Robertson, lead researcher and President and CEO
at TIRF. "This issue is much broader than just cell phones and includes
distractions inside the vehicle such as eating, drinking, smoking, as
well as distractions outside the vehicle such as looking at billboards,
other drivers and scenery along the road."
While less than 20% of drivers who responded admitted to using cell
phones and other technical devices, many admitted to engaging in other
distracting activities, such as talking or interacting with passengers
(67%) and changing the radio stations or CDs while driving (45.8%).
These numbers suggest that a large number of drivers engage in
distracting behaviours and may not be aware that they are putting
themselves, their passengers and other road users at risk.
Robertson clarifies that, "In reality, people cannot multi-task. While
we may think that we're multi-tasking our brains are actually switching
back and forth between tasks, and the more we jump from one task to the
other, the less we focus on each individual task." This lack of
attention can result in a slower reaction time and other driving errors
which can lead to near misses and crashes.
According to poll results these near misses and crashes do happen. While
few drivers admitted to being in a collision in the last year due to
being distracted, (4.3% from a distraction outside their vehicle and
2.7% from a distraction inside their vehicle) more Canadians admitted
to having to brake or steer to avoid a collision in the last month
because of a distraction (27% and 13% respectively).
"The number of distracted driving related collisions in Canada is a
frequent request for TIRF; however, this is still a relatively new
issue and efforts are ongoing to strengthen data collection.
Nevertheless, available research in the field generally supports the
belief that driver distraction is a factor in 20% - 30% of road
crashes", notes Robertson. "More data collection and research on
distracted driving-related collisions is needed to better understand
the magnitude and characteristics of the distracted driving problem in
Similar to previous RSM surveys, respondents were asked to rate their level of concern for various road
safety issues. Of notable interest, for the first time ever, more
Canadians considered texting while driving a very or extremely serious
problem (90.2%), surpassing both concern about drinking drivers (84.5%)
and young drinking drivers (83%).
"This indicates that Canadians certainly seem to be concerned about the
issue of distracted driving, although they may not fully appreciate the
scope of potential distractions, and, as a consequence, continue to
engage in distracting behaviours," explains Robertson.
As a reflection of this concern, 70% of respondents agreed that greater
awareness and education efforts are needed to alert drivers to the
problems of distracted driving. This would suggest that, in addition to
strengthened driving laws, drivers would be receptive to a public
education program aimed at educating them on all aspects of the
distracted driving problem. For complete details on what Canadian
jurisdictions are doing on the issue, visit the Canadian Council of
Motor Transport Administrators' Working Group on distracted driving, www.ccmta.ca/english/committees/rsrp/strid-distraction/strid-distraction-reports.cfm.
"It is clear from this research that Canadians are concerned about
distracted driving and they support countermeasures to reduce the
problem. This level of interest provides a great opportunity to raise
awareness about the many different types of distractions that exist and
how drivers can avoid them," notes Robertson. "Increasing public
awareness and understanding of this issue is key."
About the poll. These results are based on the RSM, an annual public opinion poll
developed and conducted by TIRF. A total of 1,601 Canadians completed
the poll in September and October of 2010. Results can be considered
accurate within plus or minus 2.5%, 19 times out of 20. The majority of
the questions were answered using a scale from one to six where six
indicated high agreement, concern, or support and one indicated low
agreement, concern or support. For the second time, some respondents
were contacted by phone (401 in 2010; 600 in 2009) and some on-line
(1,200 in 2010; 600 in 2009) as part of a gradual transition to an
on-line survey. The poll results are accompanied by a literature review
of the contemporary research on distracted driving.
About TIRF. Established in 1964, TIRF's mission is to reduce traffic-related
deaths and injuries. As a national, independent, charitable road safety
institute, TIRF designs, promotes, and implements effective programs
and policies, based on sound research. TIRF is a registered charity and
depends on grants, contracts, and donations to provide services for the
public. Visit us online at www.tirf.ca.
SOURCE TRAFFIC INJURY RESEARCH FOUNDATION (TIRF)
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